Thursday, October 28, 2010

Just the Facts, Ma'am: NWEA, MAP and Conflicts of Interest

As many people are aware, SPS's current Superintendent had a conflict of interest issue in the recent audit.

It was an exception, rather than a finding, and so although the problem was reported by the auditor's office to SPS, it isn't part of the report (it is publicly available, so don't get in a twist about it not being blared from the rooftops).

Here are the basics of the problem, in the words of the auditor's office:

"We noted the District entered in a contract with a vendor for approximately $402,000. The Superintendent is on the Board of this vendor (Northwest Evaluation Association) and did not disclose her relationship to the School Board until after their approval of the contract."

And here's a basic timeline.

Spring 2008. SPS hired a consultant to assess different types of assessments. The consultant wrote a paper (titled, thrillingly, "Developing a Strategic Student Assessment System in Seattle Public Schools: Research, Stakeholder Priorities And Policy Analysis," by Jessica de Barros).

August 2008. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson joined the board of NWEA.

2008-2009. After an extravaganza of assessing assessments, SPS staff decided NWEA was the best fit. I have heard a number of accounts of how this went but haven't been able to verify - if you've got verifiable skinny on it, please pipe up in the comments ("I heard" doesn't count as verifiable skinny).

June 2009. staff asked the board to approve a contract with NWEA. The board approved it.

Fall 2009. After multiple members of the public came to board meetings to bring to light the current Superintendent's involvment with NWEA, the Superintendent announced at a board meeting that she was on the board of NWEA, and explained that because the position was unpaid and she hadn't been involved in the bidding process, there was no conflict of interest. She finished by saying: "So I wanted to just bring that up publicly at this point and actually mention it again so if there’s any questions or concerns that clearly, there’s not a conflict of interest and I wanted to say that."

April 2010. State Auditor's office informs SPS staff that there was a conflict of interest/ethics violation on the part of the Superintendent. Their quote's up at the top of the post.

Fall 2010. Audit log reports that the issue was "Superintendent did not disclose financial relationship with vendor," that the response to the issue is "The Superintendent has pubicly disclosed all applicable relationships" and that the issue is "completed." Not on the audit log is that the Superintendent announced that she has resigned from the board of NWEA.

So. That's what I have on an outline of basic facts on this as an issue. You can decide for yourself what it means.

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